Ask Her Anything!

Mar 5, 2022, 7:50:22 PM


They looked everywhere. Or, that’s what it felt like. Catherine followed Natsumi around as their spud-like spirit lead the way pointing out the fence of the graveyard against the park. A stray cat hopped out in front of them and spuddy was the only one who dashed away. The cat in all of its wisdom did the same in the opposite direction.

Catherine followed Natsumi for an hour, and when Natsumi made the decision that they should split up and look for the monstrous woman, she took her up on it. Alone, Catherine made her way around the park in the pitch dark. A few times she thought she had spotted something tall and white, but it was only the light playing tricks on her.

Her bigger concern was navigating her new reality. For her, the park wasn’t dark. She saw the field almost as clear as day. Everything had a golden glow to it. The soft edges of distant trees and brush were illuminated in white. Warm glowing moon jellies blooped through the sky reaching for the distant stars. Schools of fish darted this way and that in the ocean of air around her.

Mesmerized by the sky jellies, Catherine found herself almost bumping into a business man walking the park path. At three in the morning?

“Whoops, sorry—“ she said catching herself for two reasons. First, she needed to remember to use Japanese. Second, as her eyes focused on the figure in front of her she realize he appeared off. His suit was wrinkled and dirty in spots. The briefcase he held was indented. The whole of the case hung on one side of the handle threatening to fall and spill its contents on the walking path. Her eyes widened at the sight of the man’s head twisted backwards.

With mechanical starts and stops the ghoul screwed his head around to face her. His milky-white eyes leered at her. His mouth flapped like a fish’s.

It was too late to pretend that she didn’t see him. Even as she tried to sidestep and move on, the ghoul stepped in her path.

He approached her. From his mouth a gentle croak broke through his constant wheezing. He raised a clammy dead hand at her. Her entire body clenched as she watched his blue lips close and pucker with each wheeze of air.

I mean, this isn’t the craziest thing I’ve seen tonight, she told herself. There was still the bone creature and an entire sewer filled with spirits. A glowing caterpillar that she willingly stuck in her head. There was nothing to this, right?

She took a deep breath and stood tall and adopted a more authoritative stance. The dead man wasn’t reaching for her. This body language showed no signs of being violent. How could the ghost of a dead man be violent with her anyway? He barely seemed able to hold himself up. Under his wrinkled and torn clothing, she made out his bony-thin legs. Even the hand he held up was supported by just the bones with his dried and desiccated flesh draped over them.

Unable to understand him, Catherine cleared her throat and spoke. “Start over, I don’t understand you,” she said, her voice still an octave higher than normal. She cleared her throat again. The ghoul paused and wheezed. It took its time and Catherine didn’t rush him. He began to speak again. With her mind settled, Catherine found herself able to concentrate on what he said and parsed together a sentence. He was looking for the closest subway station. He was looking to go home and late for a family dinner. She was pleased with herself for understanding him and pointed in the direction of the JR line. The ghoul wheezed something else to her that sounded like “arigato” before shuffling down the park walkway and vanishing into the pitch blackness.

Catherine watched him walk away and found herself close to a yokai sitting in the field. It was a large snail-like creature that bobbed its head and shuffled forward. She side-stepped him and kept a watchful eye on his movements. As the creature slid by her, it bellowed, “Good day to you ma’am or sir! I’ll have the report due to you on the day! Nice rain we’re having! Kanpai!” It laughed to itself as if it were a joke and continued to move on. Was it… imitating a human?

Catherine walked away from the yokai and stopped. She let her entire body shiver out her anxiety and fear. She peeked at the dark space ahead of her wondering what strange creature she might run into next. Once he was clear, she tugged on the zipper ring below her neck and pulled the leather away from her skin. The cool night air was a relief. She pulled out her phone tucked between her cleavage and poked out a message to Natsumi. “How long does this vision last?” She waited for a reply but only saw the ellipses animating in the corner.

“Boo!”

Catherine caught her phone as it hopped from her hands. She turned and glared at Natsumi.

“Gotcha,” Natsumi said leering down at her chest. She turned her eyes up to her. “Even if you stopped seeing them, do you really think you’ll ever be able to unsee it?”

Catherine huffed and pulled the zipper back up to her neck.

“This what you see everyday?” Catherine said. “How do you not go mad?”

Natsumi shrugged. “It’s normal.”

“Well, did you find anything?” Catherine asked.

“Not one thing.” Natsumi crossed her arms and shivered. “I’m going to look again.”

“Where’s Spuddy?”

Natsumi made a hitchhiking gesture and pointed behind her. Catherine caught sight of the green, spud shaped ghost hiding between a tree and beside him was the other ghost. No matter how much they concealed themselves the green flames dancing on the top of their heads called out like tiny beacons in the night sky. “I’m going to make another round,” Natsumi said yawning. She slung the heartwing staff over her shoulder and walked off. The two ghosts followed behind her.

Catherine ventured off to the closest konbini and picked up some warm canned coffee and some other hot snacks. Late night in Roppongi and the place was still hopping. At three in the morning, the party people were out in full force. Tokyo in the dead of night was a different world than the buttoned down gray and black suits folks wore during the daytime. In a crowd like this, Catherine blended in with her military-esque minidress. Even so, every few steps she was stopped and asked for a photograph. Some of the folks were even fans that followed her on social media or paid into her private OnlyStans site. They were a welcome sight after all of the strange encounters in the lonely park, and she was loathe to leave the lively streets to return to the patrol, but if she helped Natsumi, then she would help her.

At long last she returned to Natsumi who was sitting on a park bench starting towards the graveyard willing a tall woman to appear. A few times her gaze dipped and her head fell forward before she caught herself. Catherine held out a can of coffee. “Natsumi,” she said. “Maybe it’s time to call it quits tonight.” Natsumi took the coffee, popped the lid open, and took a sip. “We gotta keep looking.”

“And then what? We fight her? You’re in no shape to do that.” Catherine plopped down besides her on the bench and crossed her legs. “And neither am I. One more hour and we call it.”

“You can go home if you want.”

“I’m not leaving you here.”

“I’ve been out here alone, I’ll be fine.”

Catherine opened her own can of coffee and took a sip. “I do have another commitment,” she said.

“If you have something better, what the heck?” Natsumi said.

Catherine poked at her smartphone opening up the Pictogramme app and starting a new live stream and announced it on her social media feeds. Within minutes the chatroom began to fill up with emojis and warm greetings.

“Hey everyone,” Catherine said interrupting Natsumi. She smiled bright and waved her hand. “I know it’s late, but I’m on duty tonight!” She saluted.

The chat responded with calls of “Captain Catherine!” or “Major Mistress!”

Natsumi leaned over and glanced at the chat window. Catherine moved the camera away.

“Are you okay with being on camera?” She asked her. “I do a late night livestream every night so this isn’t weird for me. What is weird is doing it here.” She said turning back to her audience.

“Sure, fine.” Natsumi said and turned her attention towards the park. She waved away some of the smaller glowing fish swimming by her.

Still, Catherine picked up her coffee and slid to the other side of the bench to give Natsumi some privacy. “You’re probably wondering, what am I doing out at almost four in the morning. Well, let’s say, I have some time to kill, so ask me anything.”